Dear Prudence Presents: Differing Perspectives

Prudie's first letter comes from a grown woman with a Ph.D and a happy marriage, but back when she was a deeply insecure 14 year old in an abusive home, "I might as well have had 'perfect victim' stamped on my forehead." A much older abuser in a position of authority promptly materialized, and when he raped her, "I told my mother what had happened and she said it was my fault and now I had to let him do whatever he wanted. I never told anyone else." When she finally refused to see him or participate in their sick pseudo-relationship any more, he turned into a crazy stalker for years, cycling between bawling about how sad he was and insane, threatening rage explosions. "I changed my name twice and address often in an attempt to keep him from finding me. I believed that one day he would kill me." Decades passed, and while she hasn't heard from him in years and years, she keeps tabs on what he's up to every so often. Now, she's discovered that he recently married and had a baby with a woman with a young child, and she suddenly can't let go of her immediate and all-consuming fears for this unknown woman and her children. She worries that leopards can't and won't change their spots, and that keeping quiet about her own abuse makes her complicit in the wrong he's done since and all the wrong he may do in the future.

Prudie says she has three options: "Get word to the wife about the true nature of her husband; report his crimes against you to the authorities; move on and focus on your own life. I urge you to forget about the first option." She consulted some expert in targeted violence, and "she says there are cases in which perpetrators choose only one victim, and have normal relations with others," which is actually kind of sicker than the idea that it's an unbreakable pattern for him. Either way, whether he's an A-OK guy now or just as much of a louse as ever, spilling to his wife probably won't help anyone and inevitably puts her right back in his crosshairs. As for telling the police, she brings up the case of a swimming coach convicted and sentenced to prison for sexually abusing one of his pupils more than 30 years ago. So, it is possible to make people pay for their crimes, though I should point out that the police there had a signed admission of guilt, making it even more of an outlier. What's left is moving on, which seems to be the option Prudie is pushing. The letter writer says she's been doing therapy long term, and Prudie recommends that she switch to something designed specifically for people dealing with post-traumatic stress.

The next letter is a brief note from "an adult male attracted to physically developed young women between the ages of 11 and 17," which I suppose makes him an ephebophile, if you're into splitting those kinds of hairs. He hasn't acted on these urges, since he knows it would be wrong, but now he's beginning to convince himself that maybe it really isn't quite so wrong after all.

I have spoken to many adult women who as teens were in a relationship with men who were 10 or more years their senior. All of them enjoyed it and had never experienced any trauma. Would it be wrong to pursue a relationship with an exceptionally mature, physically developed young woman who prefers an older lover?

First of all, puke. Second, I call bullshit on the part where all these adult women are supposedly taking him into their confidence like that and confirming all his most secret desires. If he's talking about calling in to the phone sex line for a fantasy jackoff session I could believe it, but otherwise hell to the no. Anyway, Prudie refers him back to the first letter for a more accurate picture of the harm that results from these sorts of "relationships" and tells him to get help.

Finally, this lady's going to get married in a few weeks and she's very happy about it. Her guy nailed the proposal in romantico fashion, and he's been crowing ever since about pulling off such a big surprise on his famously canny fiancée. Only problem is, she was on to him from the start, and even "accidentally" found the ring box prior to. She played dumb like you're supposed to, apparently pretty effectively, and only told three of her friends the truth. On the other hand, seeing him brag about how he got one over on her makes her think that maybe she ought to knock him down a peg or two by letting him know that she really knew all along. I was kind of reminded of Tyrannosaurus Bataar's engagement ring deal, where the jewelry place sent emails to her rather than the BF, and BF is still in the dark, needlessly operating on 007 status. Technically, the surprise is ruined, but Prudie make the point that the kind of proposal you don't see coming from a million miles away is likely the kind you don't even want in the first place. T-Bataar wants to tell because the jewelry place cheesed her off and they ought to complain, but this other lady is just interested in puncturing the balloon of self-satisfaction her honey bunny keeps floating around the house. In that case, I agree with Prudie that the better option there is to limit herself to rolling her eyes in private.